One Last Time Because You’re Ready

Okay, quiz time. Today, we come to the end of this series. What better way to end Knack 2 is there than to have a quiz, but not just any quiz: a quiz on famous last lines in classic fiction. Now, I think the quiz is easy, but, then again, I chose the books. All you have to do is name the author and the book from which each great last line appeared. “I am haunted by humans.”  "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."  "For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo."   "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I

Eight to Get Ready

If you have come to this post for some great advice, you are in luck! In fact, you are in even better luck than you thought because the following advice isn’t coming from me, but from Winston Churchill. Churchill is known both for his wisdom and his wit; and so, here are some of his best pieces of advice.  “When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.” “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” “It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see.” “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; it’s also what it takes to sit down and listen.” “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” “I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.” “If you're going through hell, keep

Who Tells Your Story?

Hamilton is an amazing show. Incredible story-telling. Phenomenal music. Extraordinary acting. And hundreds of memorable moments. Here are some of my favorite lines:  “I may not live to see our glory, but I will gladly join the fight. And when our children tell our story, they’ll tell the story of tonight.” — Hamilton, “The Story of Tonight” “You want a revolution? I want a revelation. So listen to my declaration: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’ And when I met Thomas Jefferson, I compelled him to include women in the sequel!” — Angelica Schuyler, “The Schuyler Sisters” "Dying is easy, young man; living is harder." -- George Washington, “Right-Hand Man” "If there's a fire you're trying to douse, you can't put it out from inside the house!" -- Thomas Jefferson, “Washington on Your Side” “There are moments that the words don’t reach. There

Let’s Be Positive

Soren Kierkegaard is without a doubt my favorite philosopher, primarily for his philosophy, but also for his humor.  For instance, here are a few of his funniest (and yet, still profound) quotes. “The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you’ll never have.” “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” “The question is not ‘To be or not to be’; it is what we should be until we are not.” “It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand.” “Take a chance and you may lose. Take not a chance and you have lost already.” “What is a poet? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them, they sound like

A Challenging Prayer

For lots of people, Halloween is a scary day with all those ghosts and goblins and twelve-foot werewolves with flashing red eyes, but Halloween is nothing. If you want to know true terror, try evangelism. Let’s admit it: for lots of church people, what scares them to death is evangelism.  Nick Pollard, in his spectacular book, Evangelism Made Slightly Less Difficult: How to Interest People Who Aren’t Interested (InterVarsity Press, 1997), starts off the first chapter with a conversation he had with a good friend before a particular evangelistic event. A good friend came up to him and said, “There is one thing you’ll never suffer from as an evangelist.” Pollard innocently asked, “What’s that?” He replied: “Constipation!” And Pollard agreed, “Too right! Nerves will always see to that!” Why don’t we all run out and do evangelism willy-nilly every day? Answer: Because evangelism is scary! So, what do we

The Myth of Greek Rock and Roll

Apparently, Sisyphus was a jerk; but as myths go, he is the best.  Before Sisyphus died, he tested his wife’s love. He made her promise (she didn’t want to do it) that, after his death, she would dump his naked dead body (trust me, she didn’t want to do it) in the town square. She didn’t want to do it; but he made her promise, and so she did it. Sisyphus thought that if she would do this terrible thing that went against all human decency just because he asked, she must truly love him. As I said, he was a jerk. In any case, Sisyphus woke up on the shores of the river Styx, naked and ashamed (but that’s what happens when your wife dumps your dead naked body in the town square). So, Sisyphus complained to the dark-powers-that-be that he ought to be allowed to return to the

Let Me Put You in a Story

Someday, I hope to write something, not because I am a good writer or because I have something to say, but because quotes about the power of stories make me break out in fits of writing.  Before you read the following quotes, maybe you ought to get a pen and some paper, just in case. Here are seven great quotes about the power of stories:   “Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution -- more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to.” -- Lisa Cron “The shortest distance between a human being and the truth is a story.” -- Anthony de Mello “We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” -- Jonathan Gottschall “Scratch the surface in a typical boardroom;

Evangelism: Don’t Try to Do It Alone

Let’s play “pick a quote, any quote,” and today’s topic is: “The church.” "Most of us spend the first six days of each week sowing wild oats; then, we go to church on Sunday and pray for a crop failure." – Fred Allen “I believe in going to church every Sunday . . . unless there's a game on.” -- Steve Martin “I thought lacrosse was what you find in la church.” – Robin Williams "Most people have some sort of religion—at least they know which church they're staying away from." -- John Erskine “By the time we get to church, I need church cuz I've been yelled at by everyone in the family.” – Jeff Foxworthy "Too many church services start at eleven sharp and end at twelve dull." – Vance Havner Today, we want to discuss Brad Kallenberg’s book, Live to Tell: Evangelism for a Postmodern Age (2002

Bet You Didn’t Know

My seven most favorite quotes on research (honestly, how many good quotes on research can there be?): "Without data, you're just another person with an opinion." (W. Edwards Deming) "Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing." (Wernher von Braun) “If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” (Albert Einstein) “As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” (Arthur Conan Doyle) "You'd be amazed how much research you can get done when you have no life whatsoever." (Ernest Cline) “Research is seeing what everybody else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought.” (Albert Szent-Györgyi) Our book today is You Found Me by Rick Richardson (Inter-Varsity Press, 2019). As books go, it’s fine. It’s not To Kill

Listen to That Great Question

Before reading this post, answer the following questions: (1) Your favorite movie, (2) your favorite classic book, (3) your favorite Netflix series, (4) your favorite historical figure you would like to meet, and (5) your favorite Christian discipline and book on that discipline.  Okay, here are my answers: Favorite movie: Has to be Casablanca (you just can’t beat Bogie) Favorite Classic book: The Three Musketeers (Jo read it out loud as we driving back home after our honeymoon – I think Dumas had just finished writing it) Favorite Netflix series: The Last Kingdom (Someday, I’ll name a dog, Uhtred) Favorite historical figure: Søren “we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers” Kierkegaard  Favorite Christian discipline: anything but evangelism! When I first became a church planter, I had great hopes that I would become a really great evangelist. It didn’t happen. Now, I feel I am really good at outreach when

The Five Moments

What’s the worst movie sequel title ever? Everyone agrees that these were some of the worst:  Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Speed Two: Cruise Control I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (and as if it couldn’t get worse. . . .) I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer  Son of the Mask Air Bud: Seventh-Inning Fetch Knack 2: The Knacker All right, the last one is not a movie sequel. It is the name of this blog series. Thinking back on it, I’m not sure I could have chosen a worse name. In any case, here we are with, “The Knacker.” In case you missed it, this blog series is a sequel to our recent sermon series at River’s Edge, “Developing a Knack to Share.” In this blog series, I hope to add a more practical dimension to our previous conversations and provide some hands-on ideas

What Do We Do with the Pharisees?

Let’s face it, everything we have seen in this series leads to this one conclusion: the Pharisees are an enigma.  Matthew tells us they are the bad guys. Just read Matthew 3, 9, 12, 15, 16, 19, 22 and especially Matthew 23; and you will conclude exactly that. After all, they were hypocrites who were only in it for their own glory. And that sentiment is not only in Matthew; it’s in Mark, Luke and John, as well. But then we see other passages. The Pharisees warn Jesus that Herod is after him. They invite Jesus into their homes for a meal. They came to Jesus at night. A Pharisee was there at Jesus’ burial. Paul was/is a Pharisee. And history informs us that there were many other good things about the Pharisees.  So, maybe the Pharisees weren’t so bad.  But let’s be honest. It would take a whole lot

What’s Wrong with This Pharisee?

What’s wrong with this picture? Robert Shurtleff (1760-1827) was a former indentured servant who enlisted in the Continental Army to fight against the British in the Revolutionary War. As a member of the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment, Robert served with distinction. He acted as a scout behind enemy lines in New York. He led an attack against a Tory force and captured 15 enemy soldiers. And at Yorktown, while enduring heavy cannon fire, he stormed a British redoubt. His heroism was not lost on his friends, even though they often made fun of him for his boyish good looks (they even called him “Molly” because he could not grow a beard). During his time of service, he was wounded twice. He received a deep gash on his forehead from a British sword and was shot in the thigh (he removed the pistol ball from his leg by himself). However, in 1783,

Another Good Pharisee, Part 2

I would like to tell you that these are my favorite quotes about lying, but that would probably be a lie; but it sure sounds better than “here are ten quotes of limited appeal.” “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” – Winston Churchill “A truth that's told with bad intent, beats all the lies you can invent.” ― William Blake “I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me.” ― S.E. Hinton “Better to get hurt by the truth than comforted with a lie.” ― Khaled Hosseini “The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” –Lucille Ball “We're all islands shouting lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding.” ― Rudyard Kipling “I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.” ― Al Pacino “We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves.”

Another Good Pharisee

If you are a certain age, you will remember this commercial. Dressed in buckskins and wearing a feather, a weathered-faced native American paddles down a scenic river.  At first, it’s a beautiful scene, but it changes quickly. We see that the river has trash floating in it. The camera pulls back; and now, we see smokestacks belching out pollution. Our friend beaches his canoe on some trash-filled shoreline and takes a few steps. The vista is disgusting—a highway of cars and grime and smog. A narrator says: “Some people have a deep abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country. And some people don’t.” In case you missed it, the “some people” here who do definitely include native Americans. As the narration continues, a passing car throws a large bag of trash out of its window. The bag splatters at the feet of our native American friend

The Good Pharisees, Part 2

There are a lot of songs with the word “good” in the title. Off the top of your head, how many can you name? If you were on your game, you probably would have mentioned some of the following songs: “Good Vibrations” (The Beach Boys), “Only the Good Die Young” (Billy Joel), “Good Day Sunshine” or “Good Morning, Good Morning” (The Beatles), “You’re No Good” (Linda Ronstadt), “Good Riddance” – aka, “Time of Your Life” (Green Day), “Good Lovin’” (The Rascals),”Good Enough” (Evanescence), “Good Golly, Miss Molly” (Creedence Clearwater Revival), “Good Girl Gone Bad” (Rihanna) and of course, “Good King Wenceslas.” And if you got even four of those names, good for you! But of course, if you got less than three titles, let’s face it, “You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good, baby you’re no good.” Now, if you named the theme from the movie, “The Good,

The Good Pharisees, Part 1

There are a lot of movies with the word “good” in the title. Off the top of your head, how many can you think of? If you were on your game, you probably mentioned several of the following: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), The Goodbye Girl (1977), Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014), Goodfellas (1990), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), A Few Good Men (1992), Good Will Hunting (1997), Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), The Good German (2006), The Good Lie (204), and As Good As It Gets (1997); and that is not to mention some TV series like The Good Place, Good Omens and Stranger Things (ok, I know, this one doesn’t have good in the title, but it’s still really good).  Based on all of these titles, here’s what I think: If you have the adjective “good” before

Matthew 23 (Again)

Okay, suppose you are a Wycliffe Bible translator and you’ve come to John 6:35 where Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.” But there is a problem: the culture for whom you are translating doesn’t have bread. In fact, they never have seen or tasted bread. As a translator, what do you do now? This was the question facing one translator in Papua New Guinea. The Dani people had no bread of any sort.  Now, if this was some verse tucked away in Nahum, no one would really care (I know, I just threw Nahum under the bus and for that I am sorry; but really, when was the last time you read Nahum?). But this was in John’s gospel, and Jesus’ words here were extremely important. Jesus was declaring that he was the true manna from heaven and that, by believing in him, the hungry souls of people

The Matthew 23 Pharisee, Part 2

True confession. I often root for the bad guy. I always pull for the monster in every Frankenstein movie (Isn’t it clear that if there is a bad guy here, it is the grave-robbing Doctor Frankenstein?). And in all the Jurassic Park movies, you will always find me pulling for the dinosaurs to have a good meal and the sooner into the movie, the better. I so wanted the Creature from the Black Lagoon to win; and any time The Mummy shows up, please know I will be in his corner. I feel that Loki is basically misunderstood; and while he is extremely mischievous (and definitely broken—childhood trauma, no doubt)), I can’t wish him harm.  And I cheered when Verbal walked out of the police station in The Usual Suspects. Even if he isn’t Keyser Soze, he is pretty cool. And to be perfectly honest and open, anytime I watch

The Matthew 23 Pharisee, Part 1

Quick, name three of the greatest speeches of all time.  I bet your three are included in the eight speeches listed below (if one of your speeches is not listed below, tell me so that I can make amends!) Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I have a dream” speech (“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”) Winston Churchill’s “We shall fight on the beaches” speech (“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. . .”) Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (“That government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”) John F.

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